How to Automatically Delete Backed-up Photos and Videos on Android

For several years, Google has allowed users to automatically back up pictures and videos from their phone over to the cloud directly using Google Photos’ Back up & sync functionality. Although the backup process happens well on its own, users were limited to deleting all the backed-up content manually. This meant that you had to open the Google Photos app and use its ‘Free up device storage’ option every time you wanted to delete files that you had already backed up.

The company is now providing a new way to free up storage on your phone by letting you delete your backed-up media automatically after a certain period. This comes in the form of an update to the Files by Google app which now has a new Smart Storage option. In this post, we’ll explain what Smart Storage is all about and how you can use it to delete backed-up media from your Android smartphone. 

What is “Smart Storage” and how does it work?

Google has released a new ‘Smart Storage’ feature for its Files by Google app on Android that allows you to permanently delete media from your phone that has already been backed up to Google Photos. Smart Storage can thus help you clear your phone’s local storage by deleting media that has already been uploaded to Google Photos’ cloud servers.

When you turn on Smart Storage, the app will delete all the pictures and videos that have been backed up to Google Photos but are still available on your device locally for more than 60 days after the backup was complete. Because of the 60-day limit, your media doesn’t get deleted as soon as you’ve backed it up but stays on your phone for up to 60 days in original quality before getting deleting.

This is important as many users back up their pictures and videos in reduced quality to upload as much stuff as possible but may need the backed-up media in original quality on their phones for some time so they can share it with others or on social media. 

The automatic deletion will also occur if your device’s free storage is less than 25% of its total capacity, according to this Google Help page. This means, your backed-up media may get deleted even if they’ve been saved on your phone for less than 60 days if your phone’s storage is running low. 

Once your backed-up media has been deleted from the location storage of your phone, you will still be able to access your pictures and video inside the Google Photos app or on the web but it will only be available in your chosen quality of backup. 

What do you need to use Smart Storage?

Smart Storage is a new feature that isn’t natively present on Android but is instead only available on the Files by Google app. So, before you proceed to do anything, make sure you have the latest version of the Files by Google from the Google Play Store, first and foremost. Once that’s out of the way, you still need to ensure you have the following things:

  • You own a Pixel device (Pixel 3, 3a, 4, 4a, 5, and 5a series smartphones)
  • Your phone is running the latest Android 12 beta. Google’s support page confirms that the Smart Storage feature is currently only visible on devices running Google’s upcoming mobile OS – Android S, more commonly known as Android 12. 

How to Permanently Delete Media that has been backed up to Google Photos on Android

Once you’ve made sure you have all that you need to use the new Smart Storage feature, you can start using it on your Pixel device to free up some storage from your phone. To get started, open the Files by Google app on Android and tap on the Hamburger menu button (the one marked by three horizontal lines) at the top left corner. 

In the sidebar that appears on the left, select the ‘Settings’ option. 

On the next screen, enable the ‘Smart Storage’ feature by tapping the toggle adjacent to it under ‘Hidden suggestions’. 

A prompt will appear asking you whether you wish your backed-up media to be deleted automatically. Here, tap on ‘OK’.

The Smart Storage feature will now be enabled and you should now see a notification at the bottom confirming this.

The Files by Google app will now delete your backed-up media on its own when your pictures and videos are at least 60 days or older or if your phone’s free storage is under 25% of its total capacity. 

That’s all you need to know about automatically deleting backed-up media on Android. 


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